Reflections on Chapter 17 of Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders.

My Dad often has said to me – particularly when I was much younger – “You’d better take notes, there is going to be a test later.” Usually there was a twinkle in his eye and a tone of jest in his voice when he would offer this advice. But some times he was dead serious. 

Looking back, I can now understand that he wanted me to learn before the test time arrived. It may have been something mundane as we worked on a household project or repair. It may have been some substantial life lesson in dealing with pressure filled decisions, personal relationships or other subjects. Experience had taught him that times of testing would come to everyone and he wanted me to be prepared.

I have discovered that he was right all along.

Tests are often seen as a negative. I suppose because most of us don’t want to be seen as faltering and/or failing tests in the public arena. 

When I worked with children in a school setting, the tests I gave provided me with feedback to what they were absorbing. It helped me to know on what I should focus the next series of lessons. Obviously, God doesn’t require this type of feedback to ascertain where we are in the process of development. 

If we were to develop a different perspective on tests, we might improve our scores. Don’t we frequently perceive tests as a hassle that consumes time and energy? What if we viewed tests as a way for us to learn more about ourselves – to really get a sense of where we are at in the process of development? Brace yourself, here comes the really nasty question; what if we don’t really want to know more about ourselves? (At the high risk of being rude I’ll answer that one for you – you are in for some big trouble.) What if we asked God for a keenness of heart to learn about ourselves – to be tested- in His private classroom before we dashed out onto the public stage? I think we ought to consider that the tests that do come from God are to show us who we really are; and a little more precisely, what areas of life we need to improve. Tests like this are to help us, not hamper us.

There is another factor we should keep in mind. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) The pitfall here is we tend to ask ourselves questions to which we are certain we know the answers. That approach skews and potentially ruins the entire endeavor. We have to be mature enough to ask ourselves real questions, to conduct a proper test based on Scripture. If we would do this, we could spare ourselves some heartache in both the private and public settings. 

Perhaps this whole testing thing doesn’t need to be seen as negative.

“… take notes, there’s going to be a test later.”